Life in the Metaverse – Introducing the Virtual Reality Pub Crawl!
What? Why? Why Would Anyone Do That?
From the moment humanity invented alcohol, we’ve been combining it with things. Drinking and fishing! Drinking and watching sports! Drinking and bathing our pets! So it should surprise no one that humanity has, predictably, decided to combine drinking and virtual reality. In fact, so many have hopped on board that we’re now hosting virtual reality bar crawls and regular drinking games. Because of course we are.
So How Does That Even Work?
Typically with straws or bottles. Today’s VR headsets are bulky and cover the eyes and nose, so it’s a bit more challenging to drink when in virtual reality than not. There’s also the fact that you’re drinking alcohol while unable to see your (meatspace) surroundings, which adds an additional fun factor of actually trying to find your drink, and once you do, not spilling it all over the place. All of this, of course, becomes more difficult the more drunk you get, which complicates it further. It’s … advanced.
So Someone Just Decided One Day “Hey, I like VR, but I’d like it better if I was drunk?”
Actually, it went in reverse! Someone said “Hey, I like drinking, so why would I stop when I got into VR?”
According to SimhaAnahata, Lolathon, and Clem Johnson (who, when they weren’t all sauced, spoke to me about how the VR pub crawl started) it began with our European friends (surprise) and their tendency to drink day and night (surprise). Having just failed his driving test, VRChat user Orkel had just been drinking all day, anyway, and saw no reason to stop when he got in VR. He was then joined in VR (and drunken solidarity) by VRChat users Lolathon, Impulse, and SimhaAnahata.
A week later, Orkel passed his driving test, and they again celebrated (by drinking) in VR. A week after that, they celebrated Orkel’s birthday (by drinking) and soon these brave pioneers became a shining example (of drunkenness). Players from all over the world joined them, inspired by the chance to combine their two favorite activities (social VR and drinking booze) leading to perhaps the first multi-national pub crawl. No matter their place of birth, everyone was united in their love of a good pint.
But Doesn’t Drinking in VR Make People Nauseous?
VR itself can easily make people nauseous, especially those getting used to “natural locomotion” which is, more accurately “unnatural locomotion”: sliding about in VR while not actually moving in meatspace. With enough exposure, advanced VR users get to the point where they can slide around without suffering nausea (what we call getting your “VR legs”) but that takes time, and combining the dizziness associated with getting buzzed can complicate things. Ultimately, once a user has adjusted to VR to the point where they can slide about without issue, adding drinking to the equation doesn’t cause nausea – other than, of course, the nausea you might get if you totally overdid it because you drank too much.
Why Would Anyone Drink Alone in VR When They Could Do It With Real People?
But you are drinking with real people! Social VR in current generation headsets is immersive enough that those who hang out in this virtual world with you, whether they be human, robot, or anime girl, feel as present as a real person in the real world. It’s almost impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced VR, but hanging out with people in our current social VR spaces (particularly VRChat, with its real-time lipsyncing and full body tracking) feels identical to hanging out with people in real life.
Better yet, it’s easier (and safer) to both get to the pub and go home. If you get drunk to the point where you can’t drive, getting home is as simple as taking off your headset. People have even fallen asleep in VR (no doubt made easier by being really, really drunk) and the worst that generally happens is they wake up with the straps of their head mounted display (HMD) impressed in their forehead.
So Drinking in VR is Safer than Real Life?
On balance, yes. There’s no chance of getting into a car wreck while traveling to or from the pub, and no chance of being mugged or assaulted by some ne’er-do-well while you are hopelessly inebriated.
That’s not to say drinking in VR doesn’t have risks of its own. For one thing, if you are alone in meatspace, there’s no one to help you if you blow past your limits. If you’re standing in VR and get drunk enough you fall over (and bump your head on something) you could bust your expensive VR headset or, worse, get seriously injured. If you lose track of how much you’re drinking, overdo it, and black out, there’s also no way for your buddies to check on you in real life, which is scary for everyone.
Ultimately, the current social VR users doing pub crawls and playing drinking games trust everyone to be an adult, and strongly (and frequently) remind those participating to know and respect their own limits. That said, given so much we do in social VR is still so new, people are exploring ways to make it safer. For example, giving real life contact information to one person on the crawl everyone trusts, in the rare case someone gets so drunk that others feel it best to notify real medical personnel in their area.
So Is This Going to Replace Bar Hopping?
Probably not. Right now, it simply provides an alternative. A virtual reality pub crawl is similar to any other pub crawl, except the bars are more interesting (Space stations! Island retreats! Psychedelic abstractions!) and the company a bit more unusual (Anime girls! Furries! Turians!) That said, as social VR becomes more mainstream and the equipment for entering social VR becomes lighter and more advanced, it is conceivable that virtual bar crawls could become just as common as the real thing.
And so long as the bars aren’t flooded with deformed knuckles, there’s nothing to be worried about!